When a prep school boy sings the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on an American football field, he could be singing it for Iraq veterans and 9/11 families at the Super Bowl. But we know the stadium’s about to get blown away by a masked terrorist. This is Batman, not real-life.
 
But Christopher Nolan’s trilogy has blurred our world present with the comic book. So has the news that last night a masked gunman shot dead 14 people in Aurora, Colorado outside a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
 
Frank Miller originally birthed the Dark Knight in 1986 with the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns comic. His world of crime, corruption and underworld super-criminals introduced a more relevant society racked by class divisions, the effects of which – in the comic – bring Batman out of retirement. Miller introduced a gang called “The Mutants”, a gang of youths who have a thing for petty theft, robberies and murder. It was a twisted tale for the Reaganite Eighties, and saved the franchise from another early retirement: a million miles away from Adam West’s high camp Sixties “superhero”, fighting crime armed with awful one-liners and the Boy Wonder, Robin.
 
Back in the present and the franchise, bigger than ever, sees a global audience dashing to the cinemas to see the third and final film of Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of the Caped Crusader, making it the most anticipated film of the year. But how much of the popularity is Nolan’s reflection of our own post-9/11 world? 
 
The comics and previous films had included the “super villains” that we all loved to hate and hated to love. But Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy films are all post 9/11, and it shows. In 2005’s Batman Begins it was Ra’s Al Ghul and his League Of Shadows terrorist cell cleansing Gotham of its corruption and scum. In 2008 The Dark Knight included an astounding performance by the late Heath Ledger as The Joker, Batman’s ultimate foe, wreck havoc on Gotham City as nothing but a game. The murders of government officials and the destruction of a hospital was urban terrorism, but the explicit targeting of civilians instead of the banks and policeman of the past would not have existed without 9/11, 7/7 and the War on Terror Christopher Nolan has redeemed the Batman franchise making it one of the most successful film trilogies of all time. That popularity is down to Nolan’s audience being able to relate to his films. Batman is the only “super hero” without super powers – and he’s fighting global terrorist threats, international crime and anarchy.
 
These stories – while exaggerated – are the things that we have all experienced, internalised and remembered: and Nolan has made a fantasy film about them.  
 
Joey Harland 
 
"Photo credit: marvelousRoland"

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